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Children's Mercy uses new device to help with headaches

Posted at 5:29 PM, Jul 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-10 21:55:19-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Children's Mercy Headache Clinic sees more than 1,200 patients each year. One of those patients is 16-year-old Sydney Miller.

"I've been having headaches for about four years, almost five years soon," Miller said.

She is in pain every single day.

"Usually it ranges from anywhere between 50 to 100 headaches," Miller said.

The headaches can last from seconds to a few minutes. Medication for the teen hasn't worked, and acupuncture only gives her so much relief.

"It's almost as if you got hit in the head really hard and quick with a bat or something," Miller described.

Doctors are working to find an easier, quicker and less invasive way to help patients that suffer from headaches and migraines.

At Children's Mercy, they are working with a new machine that is called GammaCore.

"Most parents know what a TENS unit is. So, it's like a TENS unit but for this vagus nerve that runs along the neck by the carotid artery," Dr. Anna Esparham with child neurology said.

The nerve senses pain, like from headaches, and the device sends an electrical stimulation to that nerve. The goal of the device is to help block the pain signals that can cause the migraines and headache clusters.

Children's Mercy has many ways they try to get rid of painful headaches. Patients can get a range of treatments from medicine to acupuncture.

Doctors at the hospital said the new device is not curing the headache entirely, but is helping.

"If they have a nine out of ten pain, it could go down to a six or five or four. I haven't seen it go down to a complete zero out of 10, but they may have a zero out of 10 when they go home and I just don't capture that," Dr. Esparham said.

Miller said she will continue to try anything to have a day without pain.

"Never have a headache again, that would be nice," she said.

Adults can get a prescription from their doctor for GammaCore. It is not available for children to get from their doctor. But, doctors said it could be available next year.